Florence Street G5 0YX
“Remember the only image a virus has is the image and sound track it can impose on you.”
The Job: Interviews with William S. Burroughs
, (first published Éditions Pierre Belfond, Paris, 1969) Penguin Books, London 1989
On March 17 Glasgow International, the biannual festival devoted to contemporary art that takes place in the city, announced its postponement to 2021, due to the uncertain conditions dictated by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. All the projects affiliated to the festival and compartmentalised under the heading Across The City Programme have also been postponed by a calendar year.
Amongst these projects is
, the exhibition that I curated with the support of the creative producer Sarah L Smith. The show aimed to explore the research of four artists who, through performative practices of self-affirmation, anti-conformism and excess, advance the rupturing of the rules dictated by patriarchal society. Adam Christensen, Jeanne Tullen, SAGG Napoli and Nora Turato would have applied their research to the physical and conceptual framework of the stage, shaping and remodeling it over the course of four live evening performances. At a historic time where bodies are asked to retire, occupy the minimum necessary space, keep a social distance, stop their activity—unless they are bodies/workforce needed to support production and feed the hungry demand for commodities—, the artists retain a willingness to be present without the means of display. “Don’t transit but transcend” seems the new
. We are not allowed to go outside, the only chance to manifest ourselves is reduced to the 5 inches of our phone, where the eye of our front camera is our shameless witness and the internet connection our trusted bearer.
Within the now impracticable exhibition project, a virally harmless intervention managed to be salvaged thanks to its location in the public space. I am referring to the maxi banner by Nora Turato, placed on the facade of the building on 5 Florence Street, the former Victorian school that was to host the exhibition. Next to the words carved from stone "Boys Door", which characterises the entrance once reserved for pupils with male biological sex, in yellow letters on a scarlet background can be read "there is no business happening in the business lounge". The text is written with a typefont that recalls the toxic but, at the same time, perversely seductive packaging of cigarette packs. The phrase, adopting an ironic and dramatic register that is part of Turato's approach, is a dizzying abyss of references. "There is no business in the business lounge" immediately recalls suspended businesses, the airport business lounges that are no longer filled with white-collar workers traveling from one part of the globe to another to shake hands and conclude business via International English—the same white-collar workers identified as the first plague spreaders in the early man hunt.
"There is no business happening in the business lounge" refers also to the restraint imposed on the movement of people. The times when we boarded a Ryanair flight to cross half of Europe for a £20 round trip ticket seem abysmally far away. The crossing space—from the sidewalk, to the highway, to the air route—is a
that has lost its function in a general condition of immobility.
"There is no business happening in the business lounge" represents the virus itself. According to Burroughs, it is the written word that is the virus; humanity is affected by language, which acts both as a tool for communication and a means of control towards the other subject. The writer adopted the cut-up technique, precisely to produce new associations of words that would free the concept from any control. This brings us to the practice of Turato, who cuts and pastes phrases found mostly in the meta-universe of the Internet, to create a system of opaque meanings, made of idioms and tones rich of sarcasm, slamming the collapse of our late capitalists ideals in our faces, both advocating a message of resistance.
"There is no business happening in the business lounge" is an intervention that occupies one of the many empty spaces and times that the pandemic has infected. The banner symbolises the waiting to which we are all forced and it will last for a year until the opening of Glasgow International, scheduled for 2021. Even when all the bodies are marginalised in a space (which I deliberately avoid to call home, for all of those who do not consider the place where they live home or for those who have no home) and no one will be able to see the banner outside, it will continue to exist. It will escape the real gaze to be absorbed into the virtual vision, waiting for our performative body to (re)show itself and to return to being present.
“Too Much” reflects upon performativity roughly labelled as excessive and disruptive. Curated by Giulia Gregnanin and produced by Sarah L Smith, the show involves Adam Christensen, SAGG Napoli, Nora Turato, Jeanne Tullen.
Their research seeks to remould the dominant systems of representation and subvert binary conventions, questioning the representation of the body in a patriarchal society. The title is taken from a declaration by Turato regarding the labels “too-much” and “intense" easily attributed to women.
The exhibition is conceived as a live “platform” that gather together four ways of conceiving a stage, stressing the separation between the gender performativity and the regularisation of the proscenium.
Over the course of the festival, four evening performances will activate the platform changing, transforming and evolving it through performative practices of disobedience, where the norms are exceeded and new possibilities for subjectivisation are opened.
Sarah L Smith
Michael Murphy, Bal Kalirai